Nurturing Potential and Passion
A flower cannot blossom without sunshine, and a young person cannot grow into their full potential without mentors nurturing them along the way.
Just ask Amanda Ingram ’16. She’s an expert on both counts.
Today, her budding wedding floral design business is the result of seeds sown at NCC, which have taken root and sprouted beyond anything she could have imagined.
Ingram credits her experience in the college’s East 40 Community Garden with deepening her passion for plants and driving her to earn her associate’s degree from NCC, and her bachelor’s degree in horticulture from Temple University this year.
But it is spiritual convictions that shape Ingram’s thinking as much as her education, something that makes designing a bridal bouquet not only work, but an act of worship. “There’s always a point in my designing when … I have to just give it to God,” Ingram said. And some weddings, she says, require more prayer than others, recalling a particular nuptial when an insistent groom pressed on for an outdoor ceremony despite resounding peals of thunder. No one got wet!
But most weddings run smoothly and Ingram notes that she chose her profession in part because it brought her joy. “I just love custom-designing for all of the brides,” Ingram said.
Steadfast Florals has grown steadily through referrals since Ingram began it in 2017 with a literary-themed wedding ceremony. Ingram designs arrangements for about six weddings a year from her home in Danielsville, Pa.
She plans to expand the business by developing her social media platform and participating in Lehigh Valley bridal shows. She also intends to design flower arrangements for her co-worker at Good Work Farm in Nazareth, who recently opened an event venue. Ingram works as a vegetable grower at the community-supported agriculture farm and eventually wants to operate her own organic flower farm to fuel her floral business.
Ingram’s business and her academic degrees have all resulted from mentors who nurtured her green thumb. She took an introduction to floral design class at her high school in New Jersey and wanted to continue working with flowers after she moved to Pennsylvania.
But at the suggestion of her teacher at Northampton Area High School, she studied horticulture at the Bethlehem Area Vocational-Technical School where she cultivated her dream of opening a flower shop. “I wasn’t going to go to college at all,” Ingram said.
An unexpected acquaintance transformed Ingram’s ambitions. When Ingram and other young adults visited NCC biology professor Doris Kressly’s farm for a church gathering, Ingram mentioned how much she loved working with plants. Kressly hired Ingram part-time to maintain the farm’s flowerbeds and greenhouses from 2011 to 2018.
Kressly invited Ingram to her class and asked some of her students to take her to lunch. “When she came back to see me, she was just so impressed,” recalled Kressly, who developed a close friendship with Ingram and her family.
After enrolling at NCC, Ingram blossomed socially. She still keeps in touch with two former NCC classmates with whom she became best friends. While studying at NCC, Ingram served as president of the Good Growers Club, a student organization that directs the East 40 Community Garden.
Good Growers Club advisor Kelly Allen noted that he and his colleagues still speak highly of Ingram’s work. Allen described Ingram as a motivated, humble and visionary leader. “She showed us, myself included, how we fit into the big picture,” Allen said.
Ingram applied her motivation and visionary character to her own professional growth. To earn a bachelor’s degree in horticulture, she had to pursue her own passion in spite of the objections of her father, who urged her to continue her business studies, which he thought would yield better earnings.
To complete her bachelor’s degree, Ingram drove her mother’s car three hours round trip to Temple’s Ambler campus. She relied on scholarships and a loan for which her mother co-signed. The horticulture degree has given Ingram deep knowledge into which she can delve while designing arrangements and caring for flowers. Creating bouquets allows her to uplift newlywed couples and their guests.
Up next will be Ingram’s most romantic wedding to date: her own! And while all of her arrangements are infused with love and light, these designs will be extra special to her.
“My goal is to just bless others with my talents,” said the soon-to-be Mrs. Lesondak. And blessed others she has!
[Published in the Fall 2019 Northampton Community College Magazine.]